RAF Scampton from the air. [Pic: Harvey Milligan/Wikipedia Commons]
The RAF has made the correct decision to replace the plaque at RAF Scampton which marks the grave of Guy Gibson’s dog with a new one: one which does not use the dog’s name. It did this quietly, without any fanfare, but of course as soon as the news leaked out a furore ensued. As I write this, at lunchtime on Friday 17 July, the number of comments on the Daily Mail’s online report has exceeded 700, mostly disagreeing with the decision. And a poll on the Lincolnshire Live website asking “Were the RAF right to remove the name of Guy Gibson’s dog from its gravestone?” is running at 91% voting No.
The point that those suffering such apoplexy don’t seem to have noticed, however, is that things have changed. The changes may seem to have happened very quickly, in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in far-away Minnesota, but in reality the issue of racism has been under the surface but ignored for too long. We may have had different attitudes in the past, covering everything from the erection of city centre statues of philanthropists without questioning where their fortunes came from to the use of racial stereotypes in TV comedy programmes, but that doesn’t mean these attitudes are acceptable now.
So, suddenly, we have started to rethink. Four years ago, the influential US National Football League refused to allow players to “take a knee” at the beginning of a game to protest against racism and police violence. It changed its policy – just like that – with the league’s commissioner admitting that they were wrong “for not listening to NFL players earlier”. And now, on this side of the Atlantic at every professional football match since the end of lockdown, there is a moving moment at kick off when all the players and officials take a knee.
It is in this context, I believe, that the decision to change the Scampton plaque was taken. The authorities have started listening. The name which was always offensive to black people is now recognised as such by the majority of the UK’s population. In the 1940s or 50s it was probably regarded by most people as being merely descriptive of the colour of a dog’s coat or a tin of shoe polish. That is not a justification for its continued use in the 2020s.
The decision may have been sudden, it may still be too quickly taken for some, but to my mind it is absolutely the right thing to do. We need to rethink how things are memorialised. We need to reappraise our historical narrative. I’m not saying that every statue should be pulled down or every plaque removed. However, there needs to be an evaluation of what each item represents and whether the item would be more appropriately consigned to a museum where the full story can be told.
There are signs that our institutions, from universities to the armed forces, have now begun this process and are now engaged in both listening and learning. And this is to be welcomed.
The change should start in the nation’s schools. One of the key writers pushing for an updated curriculum is the historian David Olusoga, presenter of the Black and British: A Forgotten History series on BBC TV. Since these programmes were aired, he says that his life has “become a constant impromptu focus group. I am stopped in the street by people who want to talk about the histories those documentaries explore. Most of those people are young, and a great many, but not all, are black or mixed race. This is the generation who have led the Black Lives Matter protests and they, quite rightly, expect more from their schools than I did from mine.” See this Guardian article.
Olusoga hopes that change is coming. I also like to believe that this is so. The small matter of the modification of a memorial plaque in Lincolnshire is a necessary step along the road.
Comments on this piece are welcome, but will be moderated.
I’m not getting involved in a long drawn out debate but I completely disagree, you cannot rewrite history, neither should you try. The next thing will be that Jews were not murdered in concentration camps. It is nonsense, that is my opinion and I’m not about to be forced, coerced or bullied into changing it.
The dogs name was what it was, my Uncle named his dog in honour of The Dambusters and Guy Gibson in 1967. No one took any notice at all, including the West Indian family opposite.
I now hear from a friend of mine who lived in a very highly populated immigrant area in Birmingham that the whole issue is causing them a lot of trouble, it is dividing communities instead of having the opposite effect.
[Content removed by moderator]
100% agree with you. My mother had a black labrador during the war also had the same name as Gibson’s dog, it was quite common back then.
Fortunately on a visit to RAF Scampton in 2015 I took some photos of Gibson’s office and the dogs grave with his proper name on it, at least that can’t be etched by the thought police.
It seems very strange to me that some of the people on here are unwilling to believe that people in those days did name their dog quite innocently and are willing to argue with people who were of an age to know what it was like in those days. Someone recently argued with me that they were born in 1962 and knew everything about the race riots in America in those days, I would have thought that it was not possible to be a new born infant and yet have been able to remember everything, they must have been a very mature baby!
I am very pleased to see that this plaque has not been removed as this dogs name was chosen before all this poor old coloured nonsense had occurred, the dogs name was N***** supposedly as the dog was Black, leave well alone, and remember Guy GIBSON and all 617 squadron.
Well said Sir. This craziness is ruining our country,USA.
An ex Pat
There are many words we find offensive , such as Nazi’s , Hitler , Stalin , PolPot , Mugabe , Idi Amin , Blackshirts , Brownshirts , SS , Gestapo but we cannot change or delete any of them because they happened , they are history .
Not many respect more than i the legend that was Guy Gibson but even he was a flawed individual . Arrogant , bullying , short tempered , who knows why he was like that but it may well have forged the hero he was . Only he could understand what motivated him to name his beautiful , loyal lab “N…” (even i am now bullied into not printing his rightful name) but it matters not because that was his name .. Like it or not that’s what it was .
Where does this revisionism end , what else will offend us in 50 years ? Maybe “Bomber Command ” will upset the luvvies , or “Bomber Harris” will have any record of his name consigned to the tip . I understand fully that it would not be acceptable to name any dog that name today but we need to remember 1940 was 80 years ago and times have changed .
You seem to have the wrong end of the stick, they have removed the plaque with the dogs name on.
Did Guy Gibson escape.Did he use a paraffin wax dummy of himself on the bridge.
Well said Charles. As historians we need to view the actions and words of people in the past in the context of their time. However, that needs to be balanced thoughtfully with a sense of decency and respect for the times we live in now. Imagine a black serviceman or woman seeing the original headstone in the course of duty? Or otherwise.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many veterans over the years and they all seemed to value decency, and were appalled and motivated by the arrogant hate of the nazis. I doubt many of them, if around today, would sanction upsetting black comrades or those they were protecting, just for the name of their dog. I do understand the importance of not deleting our history and heritage, but this one is a petty battle and we need to keep perspective.
Thank you for your enlightened piece. The name jars every time I watch that wonderful film celebrating the raid. However, Gibson was a man of his times. I don’t blame him. Today, what he would have called his dog, I do not know but I doubt he would have chosen a name to deliberately cause utmost offence. I can only pity those who object so vehemently. They are missing the point of changing times.
No the RAF has got it wrong you can’t change a thing that’s done, you can’t rewrite history, and we shouldn’t even try. I like your Dambusters blogs but you have i my opinion judged this wrong.
Well that will fix racism then!
Why not go the whole hog and concrete over the grave with a statue of a black person giving the black power salute?
Well, given that that statue was also removed, perhaps the dog’s gravestone can also be moved to the RAF Scampton museum with an explanation of the context, as is being done for Colston’s statue. Amy Reid’s statue is being returned to the sculptor, for the record.
You should not change history, it’s as simple as that, I hope the old one has been kept and will be available for those people who visit who are aware of the history of Squadron Leader Guy Gibson and his dog [Content removed by moderator]. The dog should be allowed to have the dignity of his name on his gravestone.
What’s dignified about a name that is also a racist epithet?
It wasn’t a racial epithet in its day, it was an innocent name for a dog.
The N word has ALWAYS been an offensive term referring to people of colour. It has never been anything else. That Gibson chose it as a name for his dog just goes to illustrate it the casual racism prevalent in the country at that time. And also gives some insight into his character.
Well overdue, and should have have addressed years ago. Few are aware that from the West Indies alone 400 aircrew served in the RAF, the majority serving in Bomber Command.
Sorry but must disagree. I am extremely uncomfortable with the concept of airbrushing history. It’s there to teach future generations just what we got wrong.
Will Henry Vlll executing two of his wives be next for the ‘chop’? (Apologies)
“In the 1940s or 50s it was probably regarded by most people as being merely descriptive of the colour of a dog’s coat or a tin of shoe polish.
That is not a justification for its continued use in the 2020s.”
We are not using it in the 2020’s. We are memorialising an event which happens to include (as a very important part) a name. It’s a quote.
I have known for quite a while that this was going to happen and I understand the RAF’s reason for this slight change to the headstone… now I may agree or disagree but my opinion matters not..
Well said, Nigel!
Very surprising comments from an author who has sold books on the men who took part in the Dams Raid. I do have to say I believe they would find your views surprising and very disappointing as I do. We cannot and should not try to re write our history. I feel sorry for you Charles but you should consider any further involvement in the Dambuster Blog
I doubt very much, Mr Jackson, that all 133 men who took part in the Dams Raid would be surprised or disappointed by my view.
I’m going to decline your offer not to play any further part in the Dambusters Blog.
John, I think you’ll find that it’s Charles’s Dam Buster Blog, No Charles, no blog.
Quite right, Caroline!
What is good, Charles, is that you give space for free debate from all directions. Rare today!
The tragedy of this situation is that the action of the RAF was not thought through, as it was made out of fear of being attacked, rather than from looking at the situation as it really is.
As a direct result, it has inevitably caused more harm than good, increasing attention upon the [censored] word, instead of decreasing it, making it even more of a minefield than it previously was.
Everyone knows what [censored’s] name really was – and are now even more so – so the entire exercise is nothing more than virtue-signalling, and as such, worthless – which sums up so much of how this country is run.
It would have been so simple to have added a sign, with these words:-
” The use of the word [Censored] as the name of a black dog was common in Britain in the 19th and early 20th century, and not seen as offensive.
Times change, and use of the word [censored] has rightly become unacceptable.
We trust that you can discern the difference between maintaining historical accuracy, against current perceptions of malice that warrants offence today.
Surely it is possible to honour [censored] for what he was, rather than what we now desire?
Guy Gibson and 617 Squadron loved [censored], and that is why [censored] moves us today. “
Please, please please can we keep this great site to matters about the Damsbusters. Endlless sites and blogs have degenerated into a discussion about the rights and wrongs about BLM and failing to meet the needs of their readers. There are many sites for open and meaningful discussions about racisim etc. This great site is not one of them. Let’s hear more about the men and machines who completed this memorable sortie.
You cannot change history. The past is the past and a name is a name
Sorry, but I disagree – this should not have been done, trying to rewrite history is wrong. Our bomber crews have been ignored for too long because of political correctness, and this in my opinion is a step too far – the headstone should have been left alone in memory of both the dog, his owner and the Dambusters, many who gave their lives so we could live in freedom.
Sorry chum way out of line on this one and not your place in this regard to preach and pontificate.
The past remains where it is,some may welcome change in the future,some will not.Remember pleasewho we are,we are falling an awful long way from standards our ancestors set.
It’s Mr Foster’s blog so he’s at liberty to “preach and pontificate”.
History is history….. What was done was done… We can’t rewrite the past to suit the present
But we can contextualise it. The stone isn’t being destroyed. It is now a museum piece. It needs explanation. I doubt many who flew would agree with retaining the stone in situ. The word is now seen as derogatory, meaning the African is inferior and resonates from an era of slavery. We are not rewriting history but putting it in context. We can admit to our past failings. It shows maturity and an acknowledgement of the hurt we caused.
“putting it in context”……ummm, by whom, from what point of view? Contextualisation is a great word for applying a contemporary, agenda driven, opinion that would not have been possible in 1942/3 or the 1960’s. But then again I suppose you would be a strong advocate of replacing the memorial to it’s original place if the pendular tide of public opinion where to swing back?
I agree. We must not try to obliterate history, but we should be sensitive to the offence this word causes. Keeping the stone in a museum ensures that the truth is honoured, while relocating something that causes offence to a large part of our population
As you say the word is now seen as derogatory but it wasn’t in the day; I hope that the gravestone which you rightly describe as a museum piece will be preserved on site and be available for those of us who wish to see it. Personally I went to RAF Scampton to see the history of the place and to get the feel of what the brave men of 617 Squadron went through, including [Content removed by moderator]’s grave. If I want to see a modern mocked up version of history I can go to Disneyland.
Replying to Ian, if the pendulum does swing back, it means the loss of the 53 lives on that raid will indeed have been wasted. Thank goodness Johnson does not emulate Trump in all things. The war was fought by the free world to overcome hatred and genocides. The job is not yet complete but we need to overcome our historic prejudices. Specifically against those of African origin in this case but against all who we perceive as “other”.
A backslide from where we are means that Nazis and the dictators around this world will have won. 55,000 airmen will have died for nought.
The removal to a safe place is showing respect for all of African origin, past and present, who serve in our armed forces. How can we salute them if we degrade them at the same time?
Had Gibson buried his dog himself and commissioned the headstone himself, I believe there would be a strong case for retaining it in situ, but as neither of those was the case then the removal of the current stone (of 1960’s origin?) to a local museum display does not seem so bad. And what would happen were the MoD to decommission RAF Scampton and build a housing estate with shops etc on the site?
We are forgetting one thing here…..If anyone had a right to say about the change to the stone it was the owner of the dog W/Cdr G P Gibson VC DSO DFC, but of course he cannot, as he was killed on the 19th September 1944. My personal opinion is this – The stone marks a grave, and graves should not really be disturbed and history is history we cannot rewrite it. Has anyone asked the last living member of the original squadron his opinion
Very good point.
So, Jimmy Saville’s gravestone that eulogised his “achievements” in such an ostentatious manner should not have been destroyed by his family if we follow your logic.
Guy Gibson was an outstanding young man. I suspect if he were alive now, as a young man, he wouldn’t even consider the name.
Charles, I think the expression of your views here is well put, enlightened and maybe even brave. I hope we can all engage in the conversation in a civil manner in an effort to reach a greater understanding of others.
Thank you Gary.
I should point out for the benefit of other people commenting on this blog is that Gary, like me, has an uncle who took part in the Dams Raid and who died in the war.
I cannot claim any close Dambuster relation, but Richard Bolitho’s name caught my eye many years ago, as my grandmother was a Bolitho. I am probably related to him, somewhere back in the mists of time. Bolitho is a place name in Cornwall, and my end of the Bolitho family were at the forefront of banking, mining and economic development in Cornwall, when Cornwall was the mining powerhouse of Europe, and Cornish tin and copper miners highly regarded worldwide. Colonel Edward Bolitho, OBE, is currently Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall, representing Her Majesty The Queen, as was his grandfather. So all Bolithos interest me.
So Charles are you proposing that putting [Content removed by moderator]’s stone placed in a museum with an explanation will make in all right…. I thought you were a historian….let’s black out the name of the dog in the books….
Len, good to hear from you.
I have a degree in biochemistry, so I’m not a professional historian.
I’m not proposing the removal of the name from history, merely that the plaque (which I should point out was probably erected in the 1960s or so) be placed somewhere where its context is explained. Much as is done whenever the film is shown on TV.
Absolutely right, Charles … correct decision.
I have to say, I’m sad to see some of the views expressed here.
Great decision, far too late in the day in my opinion. On a less serious note, anything that causes apoplexy in the average DM reader is fine by me! 😉
The name/term, [Content removed by moderator] is offensive to modern ears. I remember my mother having a tube of [Content removed by moderator] watercolour paint in the 60s/70’s. I’m sure Gibson didn’t name his beloved pet in order to slight black people. I think the racism thing has gone too far. The animal was alive in the 40’s & it’s name was it’s name. I suppose it was inevitable though, that the plaque would be altered.
As for ‘taking the knee’, my personal opinion is that this action has assumed an aggressive & devisive nature. It is meant to rankle & it succeeds. Not Dam buster I know, but when Cambridge tutors get professorships after Tweeting that ‘White lives don’t matter’, the name of a long dead dog seems fine, left alone.
The views on here are just that,views, which Gibson and all others who fought for. We cannot airbrush out history right or wrong in people’s eyes.Where do we draw the line on what is left standing in this great country of ours. People need educating in these matters you can take a horse to water as the saying goes as you will always have the ignorant who will not listen.
The biggest danger in rewriting history is that the lessons from history will be repeated, if we don’t know where society has come from, how can we possibly map out where we’re going? Pretending that things didn’t happen is dangerous.
Perhaps we should campaign to stop black Americans from calling each other the N word?
Cannot agree with this.
As per just Wikipedia on Black British People article”:
“In 1950 there were probably fewer than 20,000 non-white residents in Britain, almost all born overseas. ”
This goes to show that there is zero racial prejudice in the name as it was just a terminology used for a colour at the time. Similarly “gay” just meant to he happy.
By changing the plaque its pandering to a narrative that things must be racist when it clearly was not.
I believe the Nazi’s also tried to rewrite history in their view as well.
Charles, I absolutely abhor the views expressed in your article. As many have already pointed out you are trying to change history and have chosen to adopt the role for yourself of Winston Smith in George Orwell’s prescient novel 1984. Big Brother, those politically correct Thought Police, direct Smith to revise history to suit their political needs and ambitions, a role which you seem to be adopting. You quite correctly state that times have changed; indeed they have. You statement recognises that times were different in 1943 and Gibson naming his black Labrador [Content removed by moderator] (I am not afraid to use the word in this context) was perfectly acceptable for that time and did not imply any racism on Gibson’s part. It is a shame that name and heroic reputation of Gibson and the others members of 617 Sqn should be sullied in this manner. You have damaged your credibility and journalistic standards immeasurably, as well as failing to recognise that the vast majority of people polled on the Lincolnshire Live website voted “no” to deletion of [Content removed by moderator] name on the grave plaque. As a consequence I can no longer subscribe to your Blog and ask that I be deleted from the Blog’s mailing list.
I have always been led to believe the codeword for the successful breach of the dam was [Content removed by moderator]. If that is, or was, indeed the case, are the RAF about to re-write history completely and obliterate or change parts of what actually happened purely for current political and social trends? And isn’t that what the Nazis tried to do in the first place? I’m confused. What on earth did they all die for?
No one is saying that. What was acceptable then isn’t now. Chambers thesaurus, if you look up “black” describes the dog’s name as “offensive”. The name and code for destruction of the Mohne Dam are and will remain a part of history. All that is happening is that RAF wants to put the word in context of the time. We live in a changing world.
What did they fight and die for? Decency and respect for our fellow humans, I would hope. Some of the views expressed in this thread are truly saddening, I think it shows great wisdom by the moderator to allow them. John Dunne has truly failed to understand what the death of George Floyd has done. He’s even taken his bat and ball home.
I disagree with many who have attacked Charles. They have a right to their opinions but, let’s face it, BLM really means that black lives should have the same opportunities in all things in this world. Sadly, no matter how well educated and qualified, they don’t. Perhaps others should acknowledge that in their comments. Otherwise, they do appear a little intolerant.
Very well put, Charlie. Thanks for coming to my support.
I am also saddened by the tone expressed in some of the comments, but apart from removing the offensive word itself, I have let them all stand.
The point many people have missed is that Scampton is still (just) an operational RAF station. How could the service justify its equal opportunities policy when every day serving personnel had to walk past a fenced off area where an offensive racial epithet had literally been carved in stone? The RAF took stock of the situation and decided to go ahead with removal to a safe place so that no one was tempted to bring in a tin of paint and be apprehended pouring it over the grave. I hope that the stone will eventually go on display again in an environment where the language on it can be explained.
Some people have also wrongly assumed that the use of the same word as a code word on the night of Operation Chastise is also being removed. This is not so. No one is “rewriting history”, and the papers in the National Archives or wherever won’t be altered. Any author writing about the subject will make their own decision as to whether to use the code word in anything they write.
— Charles Foster
Anybody know the code word for the breaching of the Mohne Dam….I seem to have forgotten it!
[Content removed by moderator]
Good job Gibson remembered it or we wouldn’t have this website running.
We all remember the name but I find it very strange that when I wrote it as an answer to the question, what was the code-name used in the raid my answer was removed. So now we find we can’t have the dog’s name on his gravestone and we can’t use the word for the code-word; the use of this word in this context is a historical fact and nothing to do with racism.
My answer has been removed, now it seems we can’t answer a question with a word that was used at the time and is a historical fact. If this word is to be removed from everywhere how will we tell people of a time when it was used as a racial slur. It will make interesting reading in history books in the future where the name of the dog or the code- word are described as “rhymes with digger but starting with N instead of D,”
Your answer consisted of one word only. It was removed. — CF
The one word was the answer to the question I was replying to.
With the greatest of respect to you, you could not be more wrong if you tried.
When Guy Gibson named his black Labrador [Content removed by moderator], you or anyone else who was not very intimately involved with him , his family or his life cannot possibly know his motives; it may be he was overtly and deliberately making a racist statement – equally he may not. You conflate current groupthink with actions taken in a former era -that is the hallmark of a Marxist/revolutionary attempt to rewrite history for it’s own ends by substituting their own, very biased, alternative nomenclature, and I use that word very deliberately. When I hear advocates of the BLM movement and all the other elements of the “Woke” thought control apparatus attribute a meaning to the words and actions of others purely to force their opinion of what they feel was meant, written or spoken, it sends a shiver down my spine. BLM wishes to destroy the culture – warts and all – and economy of this and other countries and substitute their own brand of “truth” – please check out their website.
The grotesque irony of all this is not that Mr Floyd died as a result of the actions of a police officer whilst apparently resisting arrest but that David Dorn, a retired african american police officer protecting the premises at which he worked, murdered by a looter – another african american – at the same time gets no mention.
Your espousal of the BLM and how it has been taken up is totally and utterly misguided – my opinion; however you would have to be completely hermetically sealed since birth not to know that racism exists in many forms as does discrimination and it/they is/are emphatically NOT the sole domain of one ethnic group. I live in Leicestershire and have experienced racial abuse many many times towards me, an anglo saxon caucasian male, by asian and other ethnicities – it did not induce me to go and burn down shops and engage in looting. To hear an Afro caribbean gentleman say on mainstream TV that “whites have to learn that black lives matter” is a disgrace – all lives matter. Your piece above panders to this horrendous trivialisation of a very serious issue; where does your desire to erase history stop – do you advocate the expunging of accounts how african and other cultures have indulged in slavery for centuries of their OWN people, how tribal issues have helped to destroy parts of the middle east; are you going to demand that all references to the pogroms against the Jews be removed from history, that there should be no record of the Stalin, Maoist and Pol Pot inspired genocides because any reference may offend one section of a particular society.
And if you blot out any of these comments that is your prerogative, as is the right of others to disagree with me – also their prerogative. But NEVER EVER forget that somewhere between 50 and 100 million people of ALL ethnicities died in the 20th century as a direct result of dictators forcing their Weltanschauung on the populations of this small planet so that those who survived had the free will to express themselves, including 55,000+ members of Bomber Command – of all races and religions. You and many others are trampling all over that sacrifice by blindly following this dreadful groupthink – think again.
I doubt Gibson was a racist, or his family come to that. We aren’t trampling over the sacrifice of these men, my cousin Ben included, we are saying that everything has to be seen in context. In this era, in which we live, some expressions are offensive. There is no way that a call sign for the success of a mission would be the N word any more than it would be Pussy or some other derogatory epithet. The RAF is acknowledging that. I support them.
Of course all lives matter, but there is an underlying intolerance in this country. If you have been racially abused, it is because of the intolerance of other Caucasian males who have racially abused ethnic minorities for centuries. And of course, it shouldn’t have happened. All racial abuse is wrong. I spent a childhood being called a “dirty y#d”. I share your discomfort. Now imagine being black, hauled from your car by police for no reason and being thought of as a drug dealer because the car is new and expensive. And now imagine you are black, have allegedly committed a crime, get hauled from your car, have a so-called policemen put a knee on your neck and, despite your pleas, after 8 minutes and 49 seconds you’re dead.
Ian, I’m sure that you are a decent man, but your post here gives me cause for concern. We all need to rise above our prejudices and be better than we were and to put this right. It’s not impossible.
With the greatest of respect, utter unadulterated codswallop; it has been widely reported that the two athletes were driving erratically and as such gave sufficient reason to be stopped; what possible evidence have you or anyone else that the police should not have acted? If the law is not applied, and people who act as if it is their right to interpret what the law means to them and act as they wish, it is anarchistic to suggest the Police have no right to fulfil their statutory duty because to do so might offend.
Mr Floyd was very clearly assaulted and the policeman should face the full weight of US lawmakers, but it is also reported he was alive when he was taken to Hospital – I have no idea if that is the case, I was not there so as a human being, I keep an open mind.
Me being racially abused is most emphatically NOT because of “the intolerance of other Caucasian males who have racially abused ethnic minorities for centuries” – it is purely human to human discrimination and ignorance. As for the thinly disguised accusation of me being prejudiced, that is your opinion and you have every right to express it. But you fall into the yawning trap just like everyone else who attributes your own spun meaning to the words and actions of others where no such intent was or is evident.
If “all lives matter”, why is it totally rejected by those of all ethnicities, often in positions of power and alleged authority?
Why would they be driving erratically? That is unsubstantiated. Please provide hard evidence of that. At no time did the police say that the car was being driven erratically, it was two young people with a small child driving back from shopping. The car was a black new Mercedes. The police automatically thought it had to be funded by drug dealing and not for the first time. It was racial profiling of the worst sort. It means that no person of colour in this country can be successful, legitimately, without the police stopping them without evidence or cause. If that happened to you, you would be writing to the press claiming unfair harassment, and I would agree with you. Now, imagine you were black and it happened on a regular basis.
As regards Mr Floyd, watch the video on YouTube if you have the stomach for it. You can see him die and only several seconds later did the alleged murderer remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. You don’t need to keep an open mind. You can use your eyes. It was a very hard thing to watch to the end.
You still express the trope of “all lives matter”. The reason for BLM is that they feel that too many white folks don’t think that their lives do matter. They base that on experience. Having worked with every ethnic group going over a 40 year career in business, the last consideration was ethnicity or colour. My first thought was can they do the job to the standards required. It was also my last thought. I certainly learned about their cultures and, enjoyably, their culinary delights.
I never suggested you are a racist. I think you have missed the point on this issue. I stand by that. No one is eradicating history. As it says elsewhere, the national records will not be rewritten and the code word for the Mohne dam stands. The stone will also be preserved.
I wish you well. Leicestershire is a beautiful county. My daughter lived and worked there after Uni for a total of six years. Good beer and great pubs!
Dear God – I came onto this blog in the expectation of adding to my knowledge of Chastise.
A view has been expressed about the removal issue, I happen to disagree, but I will battle to ensure that we are both permitted to express those views.
I really didn’t come on to read increasingly irritated opinions and would, respectfully suggest that we all wind our necks in, agree that opposite views are permissible and concentrate on the reason why this blog was ever started.
Christopher — Thanks for this reasoned comment.
When I got up on Friday morning I certainly didn’t expect to spend much of the rest of the day writing a post on this issue, and then fielding the comments. However, when I saw the number of hits the blog had already received, and realised what the cause of the storm was, it would have been remiss of me not to have written something.
I’m proud of my country, and I’m proud of the people who served it with such distinction in the war against fascism and tyranny, in some cases losing their lives in the struggle. But I’m also proud of the multicultural country we have become since, where people whose family roots are in places which were once part of the British empire live now as free and active citizens. And in welcoming this diversity, us white people need to acknowledge the part we have played in the colonial and imperial past – a part which has many murky episodes, which we should not be proud of at all. Thanks to the diligent work of many of the new wave of historians, we are learning more and more about what really happened.
I’m first to admit that I have myself changed. In my own youth I would probably have used some of the racial language mentioned by some readers. But I’m older now and, I hope, more mature. That was then, and this is now.
Finally, I’m sorry to say that some people have chosen to use the comments facility to see if they can slip in the offensive term which was removed from the plaque in question. As the apocryphal teacher said: “it isn’t clever and it isn’t funny”. Which is why I deleted them. Other than that, everything else that you read in this section is as the commenters wrote it.
I don’t understand why so people are intent on defending an artefact that contains a racist word. Or even that word itself. It leads me to some very uncomfortable conclusions …
I have the greates respect for your views but belive you are incorrect on this issue. That said I do not intend to go on about all the reasons forn that view.The men that fought for this Country were of many nationalities creeds and religions. It is those men and their sacrifice that allows us to freely express the view on this blog. There is no point in being extreem, it only leads to war. I remember a phrase I was taught at school which went something like ” I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
I could make alsorts of comments but “I disagree with the actions taken” will suffice
I completely disagree with your view on this as the majority have . History should not be rewritten , especially because of a vociferous minority’s opinion . History , in this case the dog’s headstone is there for us to understand and learn from . What has happened is another example of our societal collapse . The headstone MUST be replaced , The Met , MUST run away from the rioting mob . Only later is it obvious that irrevocable mistakes have been made .
I imagine that Mr Foster will shortly pull the plug on comments on this subject. I can only refer readers to his comment “Acceptable in the 50s” posted on 12 June 2011.
“As usual, there are a number of comments in my pending file as readers express their views.
That’s where they’ll stay. I’m not going to publish them on this website because, frankly, this is a tedious debate that has happened many times over.
Back in 2009, writer Steven Baxter put the point well in his Enemies of Reason blog: ‘I think there was a time when it was acceptable to use words like [Content removed by moderator], but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t offensive, or hurtful, or wrong.’
I agree. The world has moved on, folks. The word is offensive and it simply can’t be used in the remake of the film, however historically accurate it might be. You can justify using a racist word in other places on the interwebnet, but you can’t on this blog. If you send me a comment about it, I won’t publish it. My blog, my rules.“
I totally disagree with the removal and I am black my self. History should not be re written. You do not hide from the facts but try to understand and learn so you can take steps to avoid such things from happening in the future.
Excellent, well said that man! About time we had some sense from a black chap.
Charles. Thanks for the blog. I love reading all about things 617. Your views are yours , mine are mine. They may never agree but we can all respect others thoughts. My first dog was named after Mr Gibson’s after my dad explained it having watched the film with me. It was 1961 and I was 5 !! (My dad was in the Grenadiers all through Italy so had seen a bit ! ). Please let’s all continue to appreciate the sights and sounds those airmen saw on that May night all those years ago, and the sacrifice of many of them . That’s why we all subscribe to this site isn’t it. Never forget. Thanks again for the work you do. Paul Young.
At university I did a course on Old English place names. The Professor (a Mosquito navigator in WW2 incidentally) delivered a lecture on the theme “take nothing at face value”. In it, he gave many examples of place names that had been changed because – although there for centuries, and using words (mostly but not always of the anatomical variety) that were acceptable from Chaucer right through to the Georgians – by Victorian times it was decided that they were vulgar and in danger of outraging public decency. All of them are too rude to repeat here – but the Prof joked that he might sneak a few into his lunchtime lectures to the WI, just to see if he could set any teacups rattling…
The point is that this process of re-evaluation we’re seeing is nothing new, our perception and standards change, as they always have, and always will. Every single generation goes through this process and decides what it wants to memorialise, to commemorate, and how it wants to do it.
If we hadn’t done so, we wouldn’t now have the Bomber Command medal, and nor would we have the very moving memorial in London.
When we lived in Trinidad, my wife was often called “whitey” . Should we have taken offence at that?
The bond between a man and his dog is a form of love, and as such, only extremely rarely does anyone name their dog in order to give offence, or to advance an agenda.
If Guy Gibson had a history of giving offence to advance an agenda – even were that agenda not skin-colour related, It might be reasonable to remove the memorial. I am not aware of any such cause.
The simple truth is that [censored] was the name of the dog, and was known by that name by 617 Squadron, and later by millions of people who watched The Dambusters film, becoming part of the collective history of our country. [Censored] died at an historic moment, just before 617 left for Germany, and is a humanising and central part of the 617 story, including the use of his name as the codeword [censored] for the successful breaching of the Mohne Dam.
WW2 was fought to protect civilisation, and both my parents spent 6 years at war. My father was a 16 year old Midshipman in 1939, and ready to command a submarine by 1945, having killed a fair number of German , Italians, and Japanese, earning a Distinguished Service Cross. My mother was in FANY, never said a single word of her service, and after her death it became clear that she had some involvement with French Section SOE.
Both were scarred by what they experienced, and I grew up in the shadow of a world war.
This removal of Truth is simply submission to an explosion of protest ( some of which IS justified ) that has been hijacked by global Marxists – who most certainly DO have an agenda – one which runs contrary to all that the RAF and Guy Gibson and 617 Squadron fought and died for.
This is appeasement by authority towards an aggressive political movement that has infiltrated every level of our society, institutions, and media.
I have a West Indian acquaintance, who once launched an explanation of ‘The Black Problem’ that had the word [censored] in almost every sentence, explosively laying bare the social interactions and failings within the Birmingham black community, where negative actions included an uncle murdering someone merely to steal a television.
Although it used the [censored] word prolifically, the CONTEXT was such that it was in no way offensive – simply Truth Expressed by someone who knows the Truth. One knows when one is hearing TRUTH, because it resonates with you, because it’s energy MOVES you. It is a tragedy that no recording exists of his words, and that my memory of them is limited to the overall feeling, because it is the best explanation for the inner city troubles that I have ever heard.
What is happening in our country, is that the basic foundations of our civilisation have been steadily sliding backwards for several decades, and that pace is accelerating, as a weakened people shoot themselves in the foot to avoid being ‘cancelled’.
People are afraid, and orchestration of fear as a weapon of control now dominates every level of life, to the point where the state begins indoctrination of children at the age of two.
If Guy Gibson were to reappear today, I wonder what he, and all those who died in Bomber Command, many in horrifying ways, would make of what we have done to our world today?
Think about what you wrote. WW2 was fought, among other things, to protect and defend the use of a racially derogatory term.
Gibson took a dim view of anyone who was not like him, didn’t think like him or share the same values. He despised the ground crew who worked on his planes, even though he might admire and approve of the quality of their work. His book was edited to remove his more intolerant opinions and comments. He was a prospective Conservative candidate for Parliament, on what might be called the right-wing of that party. Go read Richard Morris’ book … this is a matter of public record.
Gibson was no-one’s fool (except perhaps, his own) … he would have known exactly what he was doing naming his dog as he did. He would have known it was offensive and why. And yet he did it. That tells you something of the man behind the bravery.
OK, so C4 today showed a castrated version of The Dam Busters today. [Content removed by moderator] was dubbed ‘Boy’ or ‘Old Boy’ throughout and the code word for the bursting of the Möhne Dam was completely deleted – “it’s gone” being the exclamation in the Control Room.
So what now? What happens when Bomber Command inevitably becomes the focus of attention for ‘war crimes? We’ve only recently erected the memorial, is it to be demolished? If we erase [Content removed by moderator]’s name, are the names of our 50,000 brave young men lost to be airbrushed out of history?
What purpose does all this serve? History is best told as truth and it’s up to those who follow to judge. We’ll be burning books next…
Well said, I totally agree, the world seems to have suddenly gone barmy!
You hit the nail on the head.
You hit the nail on the head.
My father was proud to be a Liberal, proud to be a WW2 submarine officer on HMS TORBAY, and in sinking Axis ships, and killing men, I can assure you that he was not ‘defend[ing] the use of a racially derogatory term’, and I disapprove of rudeness of any kind, for even where valid points may need to be said, one can say them in a way that is civilised.
As has been said ‘I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to protect your right to say them’. This is the foundation of freedom, and freedom has been deliberately eroded over many years. We are ‘free’ to think, but our routes to express ourselves are lessened, plus the state’s monitoring of, and interfering with, dissent, is rapidly growing ( for example, the insertion of undercover police agent provocateurs into protest groups, who sleep with women, and even have children with them to advance their cover – comes to mind ).
Given that not one human being is free of fault ( myself included ), and given the primitive fear-based nature of English society and law, stemming from the barbarity of medieval times, which began to ease in the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment, social divisions were multiplied by Communist revolutions in the 20th century, with the massacre and starvation of millions in eastern Europe by Lenin and Stalin, with subsequent mirror-opposite reflections rising in Italy and Germany, plus the stresses upon England of the losses of the Great War, the General Strike of 1926, and the economic disaster of 1929, followed by depression, class divisions were easily stoked by politicians for political gain, who openly desired ‘class war’.
Gibson was the product of that age which was as limited in it’s way as ours is in it’s way today – we have learnt very little as a society.
If it were true that Gibson despised ground crews as a whole, this leadership example would have been catastrophic, inevitably leading to very low morale, which would have negatively impacted the operational capability of the squadron. Those who were there, who noted Gibson’s separation from those of lower rank, strongly acknowledge that his approach, though abrasive, nonetheless created a first-class squadron with an unequalled track record.
Bear in mind that here was a man of very few years, bearing a charmed life in operation after operation, as most around him were cut to pieces, who had minimal training for the huge responsibilities thrust upon him.
“There was an instance where there was something he wanted.
He rang group, and they said, sorry, we can’t do that. He rang command, and they gave him the same answer. He said, right, I’ll ring the Air Ministry. And he did. And the Air Ministry gave him the same answer. So he said, right, I’ll sit in my office until you change your mind. And he did. And they did. And in the end, he got what he wanted.”
It takes a very rare kind of leader indeed to do that, and Gibson’s legacy speaks for itself – apart from the dams, the squadron later removed the Battlecruiser Tirpitz as a threat, plus destroyed many vital German infrastructure and weapons – a remarkable result from a tiny number of men and planes.
Perhaps it is also true that you take ‘a dim view of anyone who was not like [you], didn’t think like [you] or share the same values’? Given that we have all lived for 75 years in blissful peace due to the self-sacrifice of so many, whereas Gibson was a child raised in the shadow of the Great War, who flew 170+ missions ( not sure of full number ) – far in excess of most other RAF pilots – and was propelled to greatness at a very early age, when elements of immaturity are inevitable.
What Gibson accomplished – in spite of his failings – stands for itself, and rewriting history to satisfy a 21st century political agenda that is steadily weakening and draining this country’s strength, is insanity.
To my knowledge, there is no evidence whatsoever that Gibson intended any insult from the name [censored] of his dog, a central part of 617 Squadron’s story.
If some Black people, and their supporters, cannot distinguish between events that WERE intended to cause offence ( of which there are many genuine examples, and the many lynchings in the United States come to mind ), and events that are retrospectively deemed to cause offence to further a contemporary political narrative, then we as a nation face the possibility of dire consequences, just as Russia and Germany’s rewriting of history, and suppression of dissent, led to the very war that Gibson so ably fought.
Revision of history – of every type – is essential where genuine new evidence, or new perspectives, emerge.
Revision exclusively designed to supress dissent is an assault on free speech, and a stepping stone to a totalitarian police state, where police are dispatched to people’s homes to check on how they think, even though police state no criminal offence has been committed ( as happened in the Harry Miller case recently ).
An eloquent defence of freedom of thought and speech, concepts with which I totally agree.
The removal of the plaque as it was is not revisionism … it is not rewriting history or even rubbing it out. No-one has said that the poor dog was given any other name than the one he was sadly saddled with. That the dog existed is important; that he played an important part in the tale of the Dams Raid is undeniable. He had the name he had … but given what the name was, beyond our knowing it, the name itself didn’t and doesn’t need to be commemorated.
Yet everyone is so keen to see it displayed … are offended that it isn’t … considers it an act of contemptible and Kremlinesque rewriting of history that it isn’t mentioned … Why?
If Gibson’s dog was called Whitey, Honky or Ofay … would everyone still be as keen to see it displayed, I wonder.
I’d want the damn name shown whatever it was.
I am glad that we can share good things, Sheldi – discovering what unites us, can diminish what divides us. This country desperately needs a completely new political system to replace primitive 19th century thinking.
We all have areas of ourselves that require work – this applies to people, to groups, to organisations, and to that most primitive group of all – government. Sadly, the explosion in controls and regulation of thought and actions by governments occurs in knee-jerk standalone responses, not in carefully thought-out components that seamlessly fit within an overall operating system for the ‘computer’ that is a country’s government.
The result is a steadily increasing ‘drag’ that burdens everyone. As the system of government we have is still essentially the One Mind known as The Crown, rooted in medieval times, and as the size of the intellectual pool that government makes decisions with has remain static for many centuries, it is beyond the capability of Westminster to make any but minor changes to the festering swamp that we as a people are bound by.
So instead of our society being a sports car on an open road making full use of it’s 5-speed gearbox, and powerful engine, we are driving in first gear with the hand brake on, pretending that we are an advanced society, as we chew through resources, human and natural, without regard for the future.
On the rare occasions one can strip away the impedimenta of government, and access the reality of what people are, free of the ever-changing illusions of what society demands of it’s citizens, one finds simple truth. Then people shine.
It is a different energy, coming direct from the heart, and it connects people together, bringing healing as gently as a tiny feather dropping out of ‘nowhere’ into one’s hand.
For that reason, I prefer to have faith in people’s CommonZense ( arising from within ), rather than relying upon group-think based on fear, to provide a solid foundation for forward movement.
For this reason, I am certain that the vast majority of people – of whatever colour or social or political persuasion – are capable of discerning what is genuinely offensive ( rather than play acting ) today, and what illustrates our past.
There is no getting away from the fact that [censored] was the name of the dog – which was much loved – and the codeword.
By cancelling truth, it exaggerates beyond all measure and CommonZense the reality of the ORIGINAL situation, through it’s replacement by a new lens to focus through.
While this many make sense from those driving an agenda, it makes no sense at all, if your wish is to DIMINISH sensitivity over certain words.
If you build a minefield, or simply put up a sign with a skull and crossbones with ‘MINES’ on it, people tend to watch where they put their feet – out of fear of being harmed. This burns vast amounts of social energy, which is then not free to spontaneously create positive things that benefit us all.
A perfect example of this is the response to the current pandemic, which has destroyed spontaneity altogether under a cold blanket of fear orchestrated through mass brainwashing, with suppression of dissenting voices, wrecking the economy, saddling the country with debt the size of which will take decades to clear, and with effects upon the group psyche that will have far greater costs over time.
Bad or outmoded things recede into the past only when people cease thinking about them!
A well-written and sober blog rather than the knee-jerk reactionary rants that have ruined history and airfield social media groups in the last few days with angry middle-aged white men – for that’s who it is – banging their keyboards saying ‘STOP TRYING TO TAKE MY RIGHT AWAY TO SAY THE WORD ‘N*****’!
Basically what all this really boils down to is that many people do not like change. Change, to them, is not an improvement, but uncomfortable and upsets their established life. But, of course, it doesn’t. Their life won’t change one iota because their is now a silhouette of a dog instead of a word that is now almost universally accepted as offensive.
The removal of the word on the gravestone does not erase the existence of Gibson’s dog in the history books, as much as the fact that statues of Hitler have been taken down doesn’t mean nobody now knows who he was. What may have been acceptable in 1943 isn’t necessarily in 2020 – and we live in 2020, not 1943, which some seem to forget.
And the lengths that people go to resist change with long, drawn-out hollow arguments as above ‘a stepping stone to a totalitarian police state’ – come on, grow up – because Gibson’s dog gets a new gravestone?! – is mindboggling.
If we want young people to take an interest and remember the airmen of WW2 – and let’s face it, compared to their elders, many of the 21st century digital generation aren’t that bothered with history at the best of times – it certainly isn’t going to convert them by seeing older folk demanding their right to say the word ‘N*****’.
Written by a Middle-Aged White Bloke who thinks the men and the rest of the Dam Busters story is far more important than changing the design of a dog’s gravestone.
Edward — many thanks for this. Very good arguments! — Charles Foster
Honest debate is the basis of freedom.
Quote: ‘ older folk demanding their right to say the word ‘N*****’. ‘
This inaccurate presumption of what I think perfectly illustrates the problem.
I feel no anger, because it says far more about the mindset of those that say these things ( so similar to the 1930s ), than of myself.
It is laughable.
I can assure you that I have never used the word [censored], or that I desire in the slightest to preserve the right of anyone to deliberately insult another human being.
I am not the ‘I AM OFFENDED’ type of person, but withdrawal of the allegation would be appreciated, if you please.
If people cannot see how it is the pot calling the kettle black to make such an accusation, then people cannot see that this aggressive cancelling of any opinion not state/marxist-approved makes them the driving force of the problem, not part of a joint solution.
A meeting of minds, on a level playing field, is more effective than the aggression of the big stick.
Positive change is to be welcomed, provided it lifts society upwards, increasing the spiritual quality of ALL people ( the spirit of mankind ), which would steadily REDUCE the costs of government, as happy, healthy people willingly obey good laws under good government, making government a smooth, rather than a bumpy, ride.
Negative change that steadily lowers standards right across the board is insanity, as it increases social and economic costs exponentially, as divisions multiply, and diminishes respect for both law and other people – the very things Guy Gibson’s generation fought and died for – regardless of whether they were left, centre, or conservative.
I knew a man who was in his mother’s womb in 1940, as his father, a Polish count, and Captain in the Polish army, had his arms tied behind his back with wire, and was shot in the back of the head by the NKVD, before being thrown into a mass grave at Katyn.
His mother was deported to Siberia, and traded by Stalin for weapons in 1941.
He lived in Kenya all his life, and his English wife and child were hacked to pieces with machetes.
This is what happens when ‘cancelling’ becomes the fear-driven state and global agenda unhindered by free speech and coherent opposition.
Written by a Middle-Aged White Gentleman, whose lifelong interest in history observes not only WHAT people did, but asks the question’ Why did they do it?’
Lets examine QUOTE:-
‘ the lengths that people go to resist change with long, drawn-out hollow arguments as above ‘a stepping stone to a totalitarian police state’ – come on, grow up – because Gibson’s dog gets a new gravestone?! – is mindboggling ‘.
I am not hearing howls of rage at the concentration camps packed with millions of Uighurs, who are today being brainwashed and forcibly sterilised in a state-sponsored cultural genocide.
I am not hearing howls of rage at the destruction of the way of life of the People of Tibet in a state-sponsored cultural genocide over the last 70 years.
I am not hearing howls of rage at the torture, rape, and slavery of those many tens of thousands of BLACK people who are today being racially abused by Arabs in Libya.
Here are a few photos that the BBC and MSM never show:-
As an alleged ‘racist’, surely I would wish to DEFEND the right of Arabs to do this, instead of bringing these images to everyone’s attention?
The scale of abuse of each of these examples truly warrants the word ‘mindboggling’, and I honour the memory of those of all countries in WW2 and after, who fought, bled, and died, to oppose abuse from both left and right.
It seems that the ‘offended’ swallow many camels, while straining at gnats.
It is good that we still live in a country where people still feel free to speak, in spite of thought-police growing stronger day by day.
You make the huge assumption that anything that upsets your precious status quo and divine right to say anything at all no matter how offensive is marxist inspired. I am no marxist, lefty or anything similar. Just a liberal-minded free-thinker who recognises a pathetic reactionary when she sees one.
Zen – You seek to challenge my assertion that your comparison (of the replacement of a dog’s gravestone is ‘a stepping stone to a totalitarian police state’) is disproportionate and conspiratorial paranoia – and then go on to do just that, with another long, rambling diatribe invoking concentration camps, Uighurs, rape, Tibet, Arabs and the inevitable tropes about ‘MSM’ and ‘the BBC’ (which, incidentally, your political opponents think is biased in your favour – so one of you is not right).
I get the feeling from your replies and their construct that you spend too much time on one-sided conspiracy theory websites and are obsessed with Marxism, probably, ironically more than many on the left.
PS: I’m really not sure how good taste it is to invoke the war dead – ‘the very things Guy Gibson’s generation fought and died for’ – to try and back up your line of argument: just like today’s generation, they didn’t all think alike. But one thing we know for sure is that they fought to end Nazism, fascism and all that espoused.
Gently imagine our positions were reversed.
Lets say that from my ‘precious status quo’ as ‘liberal-minded free-thinker’, I believe your writings are ‘reactionary’.
Fair comment would be to say ‘That does seem a rather reactionary view to me’, as part of the give and take of free discussion with you in a free society?
But I ( you ) did not say that.
What would my purpose be in publicly labelling you with mildly offensive words?
Surely my tolerant liberal nature would always guard against giving anyone gratuitous offence?
‘Reactionary’ can be seen as a smear, to which you add weight by adding ‘pathetic’.
You complain about a dog’s name in 1944, yet right here in 2020, your own words may have the very same insulting offence you complain of.
Life is a paradox, is it not?
We live in a primitive fear-based society, so I trained myself to take no offence.
To sum up.
‘Pathetic reactionary’ is a concrete statement not open to free debate.
Like so many others thrown out in social insult.
Designed to silence through social intimidation.
By removing free discussion, and replacing it with a climate of fear.
Which is exactly what is happening all across our society.
And exactly what happened in both Russia and Germany in the 1930s.
History repeats itself.
Dear Charles Foster,
I believe that you article is incorrect.
The removal of the original plaque is offensive to all those men and women who found comfort in the presence of Guy Gibson’s dog and undoubtedly used his name when in his presence. The name in those days was not racist or offensive, it is axiomatic today that it is and would not be used by any self-respecting person.
If we continue along this premise will they be editing The Dambusters film?
Perectly put, Edward, thanks.
After reading most of the comments, it tells me nothing will ever be written in BLACK & WHITE again
Dam ! Is history being Breached ?
If this were Facebook I would put one of those yellow smiley face emoji things up, but as I have no idea how to do this here you will have to make do with; Ha ha, very funny!
I could not agree more with Charles Foster’s perceptive and reasoned posts here. What do people think that the men of 617 Sqn were fighting against? Removing a deeply offensive word from a memorial, able to be seen by BAME RAF servicemen at Scampton, is not re writing history. Furthermore, genocidal racism was at the very heart of Hitler’s philosophy and policies. From Richard Morris’ masterful biography it’s clear that Gibson instinctively hated Nazism and, after Chastise, this was reinforced when Churchill invited him and Eve to Chequers and showed them smuggled footage of the holocaust taking place in occupied Europe.
Quite a few years ago now, I carried out research for Sir Peter Jackson and Sir David Frost’s proposed remake of the Dambusters film. While it was never stated to me as such, it became obvious that the name of the dog and the controversy over the fact that it would have to have been omitted or changed – a controversy generated by the same depressing voices that have replied to Charles here – was a stumbling block that contributed to the eventual mothballing of the project. A great shame as the new film would have been more accurate and more technically accomplished than the original in recreating the raid itself and would have attracted a younger audience. (I accept that nothing could beat the flying sequences with real Lancasters.)
I should point out that, even though in ECA Gibson himself refers to his dog as a Labrador, his old Night Fighter colleague, Lance Martin, told me when I interviewed him on camera for the remake, that the dog was a Lab/Spaniel cross born to a local pet and Lance himself had one of the other puppies whom he named “Cyril”. I remember thinking when I heard this, “if only it had been the other way round”!
I should also point out that, from interviewing ground-crew and the wonderful Elaine Strawson, his WAAF driver, I realised that it wasn’t that Gibson ‘hated ground crew’, as one of the comments here states, but rather the other way round as he was a stickler for insisting that they spent long hours maintaining his planes properly and would often take them up in them to ensure this. A cause of his unpopularity maybe, but also possibly a reason for his survival on so many (around 170) operations.
Thank you James.
Thanks also for drawing attention by one commenter to the remark that Gibson “hated ground crew”. I’ve seen this point made before in other places, and it’s sometimes added to with statements such as Gibson preferred officers and never got on with other ranks. I don’t believe that this was the case at all. If someone did their job properly he was ready to praise them. He was certainly no saint, and he did have a temper, but his attitude reflected the class and service structures of the time. Even in the run up to the Dams Raid — when he must have had many difficult matters on his mind — he put several airmen forward for commission.
What I actually wrote was “He despised the ground crew who worked on his planes, even though he might admire and approve of the quality of their work.” I used the word despised meaning to look down upon. Which he did, according to numerous sources.